Great win tonight by the Marlins over the Yankees. I couldn’t have asked for anicer way to head into Sunday, knowing that the pitching matchup, Chris Volstad versus C.C. Sabathia, is going to be heavily in favor of the Yankees. Let’s look at some things.
Josh Johnson was dominating once again.
It’s nice to take a look at a pretty good Pitch f/x chart for once. As always, courtesy of Brooks Baseball.
Against a team batting predominantly lefty against Johnson, he was able to locate well down and away with his fastball. Also, he got them swinging and missing with the heavy slider breaking down and in on the lefties. His fastball stayed up the whole game, sitting 95-97 MPH and touching 98 MPH all the way into the 7th inning. JJ was doing a good job missing bats with both pitches, inducing 12 swinging strikes, high or in the zone with the fastball, or down below the knees and in the dirt with the nasty slider. His movement was consistent throughout the game as well, and he faltered only late in his outing with a couple of hanging pitches, particularly to Nick Swisher to drive in the Yankees only run.
JJ’s peripherals weren’t ideal, as he only struck out five batters and walked two, but the whole night the Yankees could not get a decent bat on the ball. Johnson induced 13 groundballs out of 16 balls in play, and the majority of those were lightly hit balls that didn’t make it past the infield. The Swisher base hit seemed to be the only ball hit hard off of JJ’s offerings, credited to one of Johnson’s rare mistakes, a hanging slider up in the zone. You can see that when JJ went up in the zone, it either was beyond the strike zone or well placed up in the hands of the left handed hitter. JJ was also able to mostly avoid the middle of the plate.
The Marlins have at least one guy they can count on for a good performance each and every time out. His numbers are still a bit inflated for his true value (Johnson’s FIP of 2.90 is a bit higher than his current ERA of 2.66), and his HR/FB is still a tad lower than his career numbers and could still regress, but with the way Johnson has pitched, he seems like he’s going to dominate every time out. And every time out will be a long one; Johnson has posted six straight starts with at least seven innings pitched, including the complete game in his previous start against Toronto, and he currently leads the majors in innings pitched (105) and is second in quality starts.
Nice props for JJ from ESPN’s Buster Olney, who calls Johnson the National League’s Roy Halladay. I don’t know about the comps, but that’s damn good company to be in.
Dan Uggla shows us what he is defensively.
Uggla isn’t the second baseman that we saw in the All-Star Game last year; mercifully, he won’t be subjected to the torture of being in front of NL fans this year, as he’s not playing well enough to get in the game. But he isn’t the sideshow at second base that some people make him out to be due to that game. However, Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton make it a habit to defend Uggla’s defense every time a ball comes to him, saying he’s “in the middle of the pack.” The defensive metrics tend to speak otherwise.
Last night Uggla was put to the test, as many of the groundballs Johnson induced went his way. While the majority were routine, the difficult situations displayed exactly the type of second baseman he is. Uggla botched one double-play that would have ended JJ’s seventh inning, but Hanley played a good part in that missed opportunity as well with his bobble, and the two of them made up for it by smoothly turning three more double plays, including the game-clincher. This is part of what Uggla does fairly well: turn the double play. In his career he’s totaled 4.2 double play runs above average, and over his first three years in majors he led all second baseman in double play runs.
Last night also saw Uggla miss some critical groundballs that appeared reasonable for other second basemen, including the Swisher base hit and Robinson Cano’s single up the middle that led up to it. Uggla’s most basic problem at the keystone is his range; during the same three year span before this season, Uggla ranks fifth to last among second basemen in range runs above average, ahead of only known butcher Ian Kinsler of Texas and aging second basemen Jeff Kent and Orlando Hudson. Unfortunately, one has to think range is of utmost importance to a second baseman, and Uggla is critically lacking in this department. I’ve clamored for a potential move to third base, where Uggla’s lack range would be less impactful, but there are questions about his arm and whether it can carry at third base. It remains to be seen how well he can do there.
The Marlins REALLY win on pitching.
It was obvious last night that, outside of Uggla’s home run, the offense continued to struggle and the team would have to win on the back of the pitching staff. But it was interesting to see to what extent this would be the case. The Marlins pitchers recorded a WPA of .643, which combined with Marlins batters and their WPA of -.143 to add up to the .500 needed to win the game! It’s pretty rare to see the win skewed in such a fashion, but it definitely made sense last night.